The New Zealand marine industry was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of John Street on December 21, 2023. A giant of a man in all respects, his contribution to the maritime industry for over 60 years was unique and unprecedented.

Born in Hamilton in 1936 and educated at Auckland Grammar School, Street studied accounting at Auckland University. After some years as an audit clerk, Street joined his father Sydney’s business, Fosters Chandlery, in 1959. Until then, Foster’s core business had been supplying machinery for steam engines; however, the company began shifting its focus towards providing fittings for the vast number of amateur-built pleasure boats. In the early 1970s, yachtsmen began seeking more sophisticated fittings, and Fosters obtained the Harken agency in 1975, which became a mainstay of their business.

Street was a passionate and powerful voice against the infamous 1979 Boat Tax and was one of the few to stand up to its architect, the late Rob Muldoon. Unlike many marine companies, Fosters survived the boat tax and was well placed to take advantage of the late David Lange-led free-market reforms beginning in 1984.

Sydney retired in 1983 and died later that year. Shortly afterwards, Street founded a new division, Fosters Spars, which eventually produced aluminium masts for dinghies, trailer-sailers, multihulls and keelers.

Street always backed sailors he believed in, none more so than the late Sir Peter Blake. Through Fosters, Street supported all of Blake’s Whitbread campaigns, including building the mast for his 1985 Ceramco campaign. When Blake formed Team New Zealand (TNZ) and eventually won the 1995 America’s Cup (AC), no one was more delighted than Street. Fosters continued its support of TNZ for the 2000 and 2003 defences. In the wake of the failed 2003 defence, Street helped convince Grant Dalton to take over TNZ.

Despite the pressures of running a successful business in an increasingly competitive environment, Street found time for pet projects such as the MRX fleet. With Kim McDell and considerable industry support, a fleet of Bruce Farr-designed MRX match racing yachts was built, launched and funded, and, to this day, the MRX fleet remains among the most used yachts on the Waitemata Harbour.


Street was hugely passionate about classic yachts and was responsible for saving many historic boats from destruction. He founded the Classic Yacht Charitable Trust (CYCT) in 2003. Its first acquisition was Gloriana, followed by Waitangi, the last major yacht built by Robert Logan senior in 1894; Frances, built by Logan Brothers in 1906; the tug Te Hauraki, built by the Auckland Harbour Board in 1920; and Thelma, launched in 1897 and regarded as one of the greatest creations of the Logan Brothers.

When Rainbow II, which Chris Bouzaid skippered to victory in the 1967 One Ton Cup, came up for sale in Bermuda, Street stepped up again and together with Bouzaid shipped her back to New Zealand. Next came Ida, the 1895 Bailey-built gaff cutter, which the CYCT bought from Sydney in 2018, while the last yacht to enter the CYCT fleet was the yawl Ethel, built by the Logan Bros in 1896. Many of these yachts required a complete restoration, which Street funded.

Typically, Street had a succession plan for the CYCT and, in 2021, stepped down as Chairman in favour of Larry Paul. While the CYCT will require ongoing funding, it is in excellent financial health, and its fleet will continue to grace our waters for many decades.

Rainbow II.
Street was heavily involved in the schooner Daring, built in 1963 and wrecked just south of Kaipara two years later. Long buried in the sands, Street funded the recovery of the Daring and her transportation back to her birthplace at Mangawhai Heads.

Unquestionably, Street was a visionary, and a determined one at that. He spent more than a decade battling Auckland Council to have the Percy Voss repurposed into a centre for classic yacht repairs, maintenance and restorations. The shed opened in 2021, over a decade after Street proposed the concept. Street closely watched Auckland Council’s books and accurately predicted its fiscal situation years ago. His warnings were disregarded despite making the situation known to those in charge.

On a personal basis, Street married Lorraine (nee Lyon) in 1962, and the couple had three daughters, Melanie, Louise and Pip (deceased), who became the apples of their father’s eye. The couple had four grandchildren: Tessa, Lockie, Emma and Lucy.

The Streets were long-term financial supporters and the official Ambassadors of Multiple Sclerosis Auckland for many years, support which their daughter Pip’s condition had prompted. Street also supported charities such as the Auckland Volcanic Cones Society and the Samuel Marsden Trust.


Street had the ability to cut through double-speak and drill down to the core of any situation. He was unafraid to speak his mind and, to paraphrase LF Herreshoff, was the terror of warlords, politicians and fakers. Yet to those he deemed worthy, he was kind-hearted, generous and supportive. He could relate to anyone, from prime minister to the most humble boat painter.

Street has left a tangible legacy on many levels. The CYCT classic fleet will long remain a manifestation of his vision to preserve our rich yachting history. Similarly, his achievements have been widely recognised within the marine industry with numerous awards, including a Member of The New Zealand Order of Merit in 1996.

The hundreds of those who have worked with Street over the decades will long cherish the memory of the man himself. His leadership, vision, intelligence, courage, tenacity and dedication, and willingness to lead from the front have been unmatched. His ability to motivate others to action was legendary, and in many ways, he became the Godfather of our industry.

John Street, MNZM, it’s been our privilege to know you. While we mourn your passing, your spirit will live within our hearts forever.

  • By John Macfarlane
Auckland Anniversary Regatta on board Te Mana.

The Classic Yacht Charitable Trust

John Street created a fleet of yachts that are the envy of the world, and it’s impossible to overstate what he’s done for the New Zealand classic yacht movement.
The CYCT fleet is kept alive by a veritable volunteer army of skippers, crew, maintenance people and committee members. Anyone interested in classic yachts will find an avenue within the CYCT to help. One practical way is by becoming a Friend of the CYCT and making a monthly financial contribution. There are also numerous opportunities to help out with maintenance and crewing,
a wonderful opportunity to learn more about either or both.